Dear bowl season,
Oh, how Texas has missed you.
It’s been a long 35 months since the Longhorns were invited back to the party. Texas fans watched two whole bowl seasons from the couch and the worst part is they don’t even have a positive memory from the last bowl appearance. That 31-7 beatdown Arkansas handed them in the 2014 Texas Bowl still haunts them every now and then.
The rest of the country simply forgot about Texas, even you. But that’s okay, no hard feelings. In fact, it’s not your fault. These past two years are all on Texas. Sorry I didn’t check in to give you an update on the program.
I meant to write sooner but with work and class, it’s hard to keep up with everything. I hope you understand. But, Texas has good news: the Longhorns will be participating in the 2017 bowl season. However, they’ve changed their look from the last time you saw them.
No, Charlie Strong didn’t grow his hair out. Texas and Charlie actually broke up last year. They just couldn’t make another 5–7 season work out. He got a good gig in South Florida and is in the middle of a 9–1 record, though. I’m happy for him.
Texas found this new guy from the University of Houston, Tom Herman. He didn’t throw fairy dust on the team and magically bring Texas back overnight. Texas is just 6–5. It’s not pretty but hey, it’s better than 5–7. It’s improvement. That’s really all Longhorn fans wanted when he arrived in Austin.
He chews an absurd amount of gum and confuses the Longhorn faithful with his decision-making when it comes to 20-yard field goals, but instead of complaining, let’s celebrate Thanksgiving by counting Texas’ blessings. In fact, here’s a list to catch you up:
1. Texas did not lose to Kansas
This might be confusing at first glance, but I have a confession to make. Last year Texas was one win away from earning bowl eligibility. With a 5–5 record and a game against Kansas remaining on the schedule, Texas appeared to be in perfect position to earn its sixth win. Well, Texas lost — in overtime. Internet trolls and endless memes on Twitter have made Texas fans’ life a living hell for the past 365 days.
But that nightmare is over. Although the 42-27 score was much closer than it should have been, Texas fans will take any victory over Kansas at this point, both on the gridiron and the hardwood. Now, you can happily look up the conference standings and see that Kansas has rightfully returned to its winless conference record.
2. Texas finally found a quarterback with swagger
Before we praise this guy, let’s make one thing clear: he’s not perfect. He fumbled in double overtime erasing any hope Texas had at upsetting then-No. 4 USC on the road. He threw a game-ending interception in overtime against then-No. 10 Oklahoma State, too.
Now that that’s out of the way, the dude can ball. He’s not perfect. He’s a true freshman. At this point, everybody has accepted Sam Ehlinger and all he encompasses, for the time being.
He will make mistakes, but he’ll also run over an entire defense single-handedly. He brings a confidence that quite frankly, we haven’t seen since that guy named Vince Young went to school here.
3. Texas’ defense is back, folks
We told you about Tom Herman, but he brought with him a guy named Todd Orlando. There’s no hiding it, the Longhorn defense was bad — historically bad. Then, Orlando arrived. Whether you believe in miracles or not is beside the point. The defensive coordinator completely transformed a unit that would’ve given up 40-plus points to a middle school.
Now the offense struggles at times, but beggars can’t be choosers. Time and time again, the Longhorn defense has stepped up. In its performances against USC in Los Angeles and Oklahoma State at home, this defense gave Texas a chance to pull off two huge wins. It goes without saying — Texas needs to do all it can to keep Todd Orlando in Austin.
But things haven’t been perfect, either. Texas ended up losing those two games against Oklahoma State and USC. Longhorn fans also watched Maryland walk all over that same defense I just mentioned.
At this point, Texas fans are just glad they’re invited back to the party. They know they won’t be expected to bring anything fancy to the gathering. If they aren’t aware, let’s make that clear. The Longhorns’ role this bowl season will not be significant to the majority of the country.
If we’re talking Thanksgiving dishes, the Longhorns will be the cranberries of the dinner. They are poured out of a can and into a bowl where they sit untouched in the middle of the table. Nobody pays too much attention to the dish except for the cranberry lovers. That will essentially be the case for the Longhorns this bowl season. The cranberry lovers are Texas fans, and the cranberries themselves are the Longhorns and a trip to a small, insignificant bowl. But hey, people appreciate things more once they’re gone, so these cranberries mean much more this season.
Texas fans know they won’t be the main event this bowl season. They know they might not even be the main event in the next couple of seasons, but for now, they are just happy to receive any sort of invitation back to the party.
Texas is back (to bowl season), folks.
Your Longhorn football beat writer,